Iraq Ambassador to Russia, Haidar Mansour Hadi. Photo: Dmitry Serebryakov | AFP
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Haidar Mansour Hadi, Iraq's ambassador to Russia, has said that the days of terrorism in the country are in their final stages, despite ongoing killings by ISIS and declarations of another state (wilayah) in the Hamrin area.
“I think within seven days we’ve liberated most of Tal Afar. Now we only have very small pockets [with terrorists] and those [will be cleared] hopefully within days,” Russia's to Iraq ambassador told Russia Today.
He added in the interview on Wednesday: "And we will be able to say that now we have an Iraq free from terrorists, free from ISIS."
Iraqi security forces backed by Kurdish Peshmerga and Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitaries took nine months to liberate Mosul city from ISIS on June 10, followed by a six week pause and then a swift 11-day campaign that cleared Tal Afar city and the sub-district of al-A'ayaziyah in Nineveh.
However, ISIS militants have continued to control areas such as the Hamrin mountain range, where earlier in August they declared a self-styled state (wilayat).
By controlling the Hamrin area — some 160 kilometers north of Baghdad and 70 kilometers south of Kirkuk — ISIS has continued to launch attacks into nearby towns.
Just this week in Kifri, ISIS kidnapped two Arab guards from a block factory, killing one on Monday and the other on Wednesday.
"ISIS militants killed the second kidnapped of Islah village and published the images on their own websites,” Simko Ali, an Asayesh (security) manager from Kolajo, told Rudaw.
After the kidnapping, Islah villagers with the help of Asayesh and Peshmerga forces started to search for the group's remaining cells and during the operation killed three ISIS militants in the village's groves, including a leader known as 'The Executioner Khalid bin Waleed Regiment.'
ISIS has increasingly attacked people in towns and villages near Tuz Khurmatu, Qara Tapa, and Daquq since Mosul was declared liberated.
Since mid-2014, ISIS has held control of Hawija, a mainly Sunni Arab city just 55 kilometers southwest of Kirkuk.
Kirkuk Governor Najmaldin Karim has described the alleged decision by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to postpone the Hawija operation a “crime” committed against the people of Hawija and Kirkuk.
“Based on the information we have and based on what the prime minister has said, it seems after Tal Afar, Kirkuk might not be next,” said Karim after heading a Kirkuk security meeting on Sunday.
The US-led Global Coalition to Defeat ISIS acknowledges the group’s presence in Hawija.
"Right now, we estimate that there are about 1,000 [ISIS militants] in and around the Al-Qaim area and I think it's about the same in Hawija. Between those elements that are still remaining in northern Tal Afar to Al-Qaim, Hawija, Anhurwara — and these are just estimates — so I would say less 5,000 ISIS fighters remain in Iraq,” Coalition Spokesperson and US Army Col. Ryan Dillon told Rudaw on Wednesday.
The 72-member strong Coalition says it can act as soon as the decision is made.
“The Iraqi security forces will never have to wait on the coalition,” Dillon added.
Some local leaders in Hamrin have voiced dissatisfaction with Baghdad and welcome Kurdistan’s upcoming referendum on independence.
“The central government’s policies and conduct in the past were a failure, and this has been practically proven to be the case,” Sheikh Ahmed al-Sumaydahi who represents Arabs of Hamrin told Rudaw in an interview last week.
“Living conditions are bad. There is corruption, insecurity, and injustice. This is Iraq.”